Aneeta and Ameeta Kumar

"We both gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience from the placement and we remain in contact with our hosts to keep up-to-date with the progress of their research.  We would encourage everyone thinking of a career in science to apply for a Nuffield Research Placement - it will open up wonderful opportunities."

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

We both wanted to learn more about research and experience how real-life science works. Being very enthusiastic about science, we wanted to get the chance to carry out some of the experiments which we had encountered in our A-level studies.

What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?

Our project focused on a molecule called pH Low Insertion Peptide (pHLIP), which has been observed to change its shape and append itself into nearby cell membranes when it is in an acidic environment. We conducted experiments with pHLIP and cancer cells; our experiments showed that while pHLIP inserts into cancerous cell membranes, a non-functional version (K-pHLIP), which we used for comparison, does not.

We both knew a little about cancer before the placement but, through reading some scientific papers and talking to the scientists that we were working with, we have gained a much greater understanding of the disease.

How did your supervisors help you with your project?

Our supervisors taught us the methods of cell culture, Western Blotting and polymerase chain reaction, as well as giving us guidance on the format of a scientific report. Our two hosts were very enthusiastic and continuously encouraged us to discuss any queries and present our ideas to the research team.

Did you gain any new skills, both scientific and general, from undertaking your placement?

From our hosts we learnt several advanced techniques, such as Quantitative Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (qRT-PCR). We were fortunate to have hands-on experience with these procedures and were permitted to use a variety of equipment, like the confocal microscope to view spheroids (3D models of cells). Over time, we gained more confidence and became fairly independent in our laboratory work.

Has your experience helped you to decide on a career path?

Originally, we both had our sights set on a career in medicine. After our experiences on the Nuffield placement, however, we have since decided to pursue a career in both medicine and biomedical research, possibly as clinical academics.

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?

Try to read any material that you are given by your supervisor before the start of the placement. The knowledge you gain may enable you to better understand the purpose of the experiments you will be carrying out.

What was it like exhibiting at the Big Bang Fair?

Exhibiting at the Big Bang Fair and competing in the National Science + Engineering Competition was an amazing experience for both of us. We met so many wonderful, talented people with very interesting ideas and amazing research projects. Though tiring, it was undoubtedly one of the best opportunities of our lives and we would encourage everyone to get involved!